A Few Quick Questions With…Nick Kolakowski

Little backstory to this Q&A, in my never-ceasing attempts to get organized, I’ve started noting when a book post is due, what I’m doing associated with it, etc on my reading log (nothing special, just an up-to-current date Excel spreadsheet, with a couple of blank lines and then a list of upcoming reads). I’d put a note on with Boise Longpig Hunting Club with the release date and a note “read early for Q&A.” Before I sent my list of Questions, I looked over my correspondence with Kolakowski and realized we hadn’t actually discussed it — thankfully, he was gracious enough to answer my questions (beer’s on me next time you’re in town) — and here they are.

Could you tell us a little about your “path to publication”? What got you into writing and what did you do to take it from an aspiration to a reality?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My love of crime fiction also started at a very young age, when my Dad gave me his yellowed copy of Chandler’s “Trouble Is My Business.” I’d written crime fiction since I was a teenager but I only got serious about producing a novel in my late 20s. I wrote three “trunk novels” before “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” which was picked up by Shotgun Honey and published in 2017. Other novels followed.

I suspect my process mirrors that of other folks: you write a lot, query agents, send manuscripts around, and generally struggle in a very crowded market. And when you finally begin publishing books, that kicks off a whole new game: marketing, publicity, trying to get the word out. The grind never stops. Good thing it’s fun.

Why Boise, of all places? In the Acknowledgements you mention the time you’ve spent in Idaho — other than just soaking up the culture, what kind of research did you do? (I’ve got to say, as someone who’s lived most of his life in the Boise-area, you do a really good job of capturing the feel, the geography, etc. Just hopefully not the crime)
My wife was born and raised in Boise, and so I started going there with her, sometimes a couple times a year. She has friends and family all over the state, and so we spend a lot of time driving around. That’s the bulk of the research I did for the novel—with the exception of the book’s final act, which is set in a wilderness of my own invention, I don’t think there’s a location that isn’t grounded in reality. I’m sometimes startled by the changes when I come back every eight months or so—the money pouring into the state is producing seismic changes, especially in the Boise area.

I chose Boise because it’s not a place usually covered by crime fiction; I’m a little tired of novels always being set in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago. And for years, I’d wanted to write a thriller set in someplace more isolated and rural—which Idaho definitely provides, along with a unique texture all its own.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
“Breaking Bad.” I can say that without putting too much thought into it. It’s a masterpiece.
(I might have to retire that question — between the answer, and the way you put it, I don’t know if that can be topped.)

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?

Ooof, that’s a tough one. My sense of humor is rather bleak, and at one point, an Amazon reviewer suggested that they “didn’t appreciate the crudeness and [my] choice of words at times.” And when I read that, I thought, “Well, okay, but you should have seen the first draft. That was even worse.” I do try to restrain myself a little bit more, at moments, because I realize that some readers might not appreciate when I go deliriously over-the-top.

The same goes with violence; I’m trying to be a little bit more judicious in my moments of kinetic action. If you structure it right, you can pack a lot of emotional and thematic “oomph” into just a single gunshot.

What’s next for Nick Kolakowski? (Bonus points if it involves anyone who survives Boise Longpig Hunting Club)
I’m actually writing the sequel to “Boise Longpig” right now! It’s called “Voodoo Potato,” and it’s set in New Orleans. It deals heavily with the privatization of public security, and the dangers that stem from that. When we were in New Orleans last, someone casually mentioned to us that it takes 20 minutes for the cops to arrive if you call 911, and that some local millionaire had set up a private security force in the French Quarter that can respond more quickly. Sounds like a potential Pandora’s Box to me.
Oh, that sounds great (the book, not the terrifying reality behind it).

Thanks for taking the time to answer these, and I hope that Boise Longpig Hunting Club finds all sorts of success!

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Pub Day Post — Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolokowski: A Gritty, Violent Visit to Idaho

Boise Longpig Hunting ClubBoise Longpig Hunting Club

by Nick Kolakowski

eARC, 320 pg.
Down & Out Books , 2018
Read: July 28, 2018
Jake Halligan is a bounty hunter — more in the Lori Anderson/JT mold, than a Stephanie Plum-type — in Boise, Idaho and the immediate environs. He’s got a kid, an interesting relationship with his daughter’s mother, and a sister that . . . well, you just have to meet her. But think Bubba Rogowski without the size and clinical diagnosis.

Jake’s a Vet, having served in some of the worst conditions Iraq has to offer. He’s smart, he’s careful — he has people he cares about, so he has to be — and he has a conscience. It doesn’t stop him from doing his job, but it can stop him from enjoying it. Early on in the novel, we find Jake after a rough week at work — and a less-than-friendly exchange with the local police — on the whole, his life is looking pretty good, even if Janine (his ex-wife, fiancé and mother of his child) made him pay a social call on some neighbors. When they get home, Jake finds a dead woman in his gun safe. This plunges Jake into a hunt for a killer — as well as an explanation. He’ll find both, and probably wish he didn’t. It’s a violent, nasty hunt full of crazy characters, drug dealers, Aryan assassins, corrupt police — and people who are even worse than them.

Along for the ride are Janine — I can’t say enough about Janine as a character. From her attitude towards a house without books, to her hidden strength and anxieties — and all points in between. Then there’s Frankie, his sister — she’s cocky, funny, and vicious — she’s the biggest gun dealer in Idaho, not even close to legal, and the law can’t touch her. The law can’t even find her. She’s surrounded by associates/employees who are almost as colorful as she is (some even more so) — and is definitely the person you want at your side (or back) in a firefight.

Which is good — because they’re going to find themselves in a few.

Kolakowski has a great way with his characters — they’re real, they’re human — and they’re larger than life in a way that you’ll absolutely buy, as well as enjoy. When the action starts, it is gripping and exciting — you’ll keep turning pages. When there’s a lull in the action, you can bask in the character moments. I’m not really sure what else can I say beyond that. This is the whole package, you get to spend time with interesting people being interesting, and when they take a break from that, it’s because fists or bullets are flying — or maybe something explodes.

My one gripe — and it’s not much of one, before we get back to me saying nice things. The ending is abrupt. I’m not sure if I can think of a well-known book/movie to compare it to. You’re just reading along, hoping that Jake, Frankie, Janine and the rest survive this mess and then before you really realize what happened, it’s over. You know who survives — and who doesn’t — and the book ends with very little wrap-up (actually the wrap up happens before the ending — that remark will make sense when you read it). Kolakowski had a story to tell and he didn’t drag out the ending, much like his protagonist would approach things, I expect. He got the job done and moved on. I would’ve preferred a little more time after the main events are over — there are things I want to know about the immediate aftermath. There aren’t loose ends left untied, I’d just like to see what they look like after they’re taken care of. You can make a strong case that this is the way to end a book — when things are done.

It’s not often that I can evaluate an author’s use of geography — I know that Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane have tweaked Boston, I understand that Butcher goofs re: Chicago’s neighborhoods, etc. but I don’t know that reading the books, I learn that later. It’s rare when I’ve been somewhere a book has been set — a little bit with the Mercy Thompson books (but I’m better at noting pronunciation on the audiobooks that no resident would recognize), I noted that Wesley Chu fumbled a smidge Eastern Oregon in the third Tao book, and that Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping was creative with the facts, etc. But by and large, this book takes place in the area I’ve lived in most of my life, so I feel that I can actually comment. — and Kolakowski nailed it. Not just the details, but he’s got the feel, he’s got the atmosphere, the attitude toward change and the out-of-state money that’s bringing the change. he’s changed business names and whatnot, but I can still recognize them — I love seeing this kind of detail brought to life. I’m trusting that his depiction of local crime is hyperbolic, however.

I’m a little worried that it’s as accurate as the rest, actually . . . but we’ll move on.

There’s a visceral feel to this novel and these characters — people in places most don’t think about showing skills, interests, and circumstances that you don’t normally associate with that area. Just a guy trying to make a decent life for his family and himself, who finds himself in dangerous situations. I couldn’t help but think of Jason Miller’s Slim in Little Egypt series while reading his. Jake’s far more capable than Slim, and is far less likely to end up on the wrong end of a beating. But there’s a very similar ethos in the books, and fans of one should grab the other right away.

I’m not going to belabor the point any more, I think it’s clear that I enjoyed the heck out of this — it’s fast, it’s energetic, it’s fun. Go grab a copy of it.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which I greatly appreciate.

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4 Stars